Reverend Edward Schreiber, pastor of the Atonement Lutheran Church on Market St. in Saugerties, recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination in the church; an event that took place on Sept. 23, 1973 at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Hempstead on Long Island. Next year, Schreiber will celebrate his 30th anniversary in Saugerties as pastor at Atonement Lutheran Church.
When Schreiber first came to Saugerties in 1984, he liked its small-town sensibilities, not unlike the place he was born and raised. He’s from Cape Ann, on the north shore of Massachusetts, where Schreiber grew up with one older sister who now lives in New Hampshire with her husband and also has a connection to the church—she is the pianist/organist and choir director at her local church.
Schreiber knew a little bit about Saugerties before his arrival, having served in Hempstead with Rev. Herb Gibney, who was pastor at Atonement Lutheran Church from 1947–1950, and had spoken with Schreiber on several occasions about Saugerties and how the town had made him and his wife, Dottie, feel comfortable when they lived here, in the parsonage next to the church.
So when the opportunity arose for Schreiber to move to Saugerties as pastor at the same church Gibney had told him about, he already had a good feeling about it, which was confirmed for Schreiber and his wife, Mary, after their first visits here. “She used to always say back then, ‘This is a town just waiting to be discovered,’” Schreiber says. “And it certainly has been, in many ways, by many other people who really like the area, too.” Although it was a bit of a culture shock at first, he says, after living in Queens, the couple quickly got comfortable and settled in, enjoying the small town setting. “It felt good to be out of the traffic maze and be able to relax a little bit,” he says.
Schreiber earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology from Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he met Mary a year before he was ordained. She is originally from New Jersey and currently teaches math at Rondout Valley High School. After college, Schreiber attended the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, where—as part of his internship during the last two years—he served at Grace Lutheran Church in West Philadelphia, where the couple married.
Schreiber says he was drawn to the ministry after having an experience where he felt the presence of God in his life, causing him to reconsider what he’d been planning to do. (Although with a major in philosophy, he adds with a laugh, one never knows quite where that’s going to lead, anyway.)
As for the future, a lot of Lutheran churches in the area are struggling with their mission, Schreiber says. “Times are changing, and the affiliations people used to have with particular denominations are fading. Churches kind of need to make their own way in the world now, and establish an identity—not denying the history of the church, as the Lutheran Church has a long and storied history—but to establish an identity for the people living in the town.”
Schreiber says that his priority as pastor at Atonement Lutheran has been to ensure that the church was involved with the community, and to that end they’ve established a food pantry and soup kitchen (separate from the Council of Churches food pantry in Saugerties) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon and the God-Given Bread Lunch Program on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon. “We have a mass distribution of food fairly regularly,” Schreiber says, “and the people at the church have risen to the occasion.”